Didn't realize that feeling like a ditz was part of being pregnant? Here's why you've suddenly become an airhead, and what you can do about pregnancy brain.
Pregnancy-induced brain fog is a true (and truly frustrating) hallmark of pregnancy. If you suffer from so-called “pregnancy brain,” you may forget appointments, what you just walked into the store for, where you left your purse, whether you turned off the stove — and, maybe, your phone number.
This forgetfulness isn't just a lack of sleep playing tricks on you: Research suggests that pregnancy really does alter a woman's brain.
What causes pregnancy brain?
As usual, pregnancy brain is just your hormones having some fun — this time at the expense of your memory.
A lack of quality shut-eye due to a number of sleep-busting conditions during pregnancy (especially common in your first and third trimesters) can also play a role, as can the fact that you're constantly zapped of energy (which your brain needs to stay focused).
What’s more, all of those big and exciting changes going on in your life could have an impact on your ability to focus too.
In fact, research has actually shown that your brain really does function differently during pregnancy, increasing activity in the side associated with emotional skills (in theory to ensure you’re neurologically attuned to your baby’s facial emotions at birth, so you bond more easily).
And believe it or not your brain-cell volume actually decreases during the third trimester of pregnancy (which could explain why you can't remember what you just read about in that last paragraph). Not to worry, though — your brain will plump back up a few months after delivery.
Is pregnancy brain normal?
Forgetfulness is both completely normal and extremely common. Even if you pride yourself on your master multitasking skills or your ability to stay organized, you still may find yourself having trouble concentrating or remembering your car keys.
The good news is it’s also temporary — you'll have total recall again long before you start to have your "senior moments."
What you can do about it
Take a deep breath. Try not to be too hard on yourself. Stress will only cloud your pregnancy brain more.
Write it down. If you need to remember something — to buy certain groceries, make a phone call, ask your practitioner a question, take your prenatal vitamin — leave a big note in an obvious place. You might also stash a notepad and pen in easy-to-remember spots like your purse, your car and your bathroom.
Turn high-tech. Rely on calendar reminders on your phone to help keep you organized and less forgetful.
Have a backup system. Reduce the number of things you need to remember by delegating some jobs to others. When possible, enlist the aid of those around you who are not pregnant to serve as your backup system (Honey… have you seen my earphones?). Easier said than done, but worth a go. (You'll forget about the less important stuff, anyway.)
Have a sense of humor. Let yourself have a good laugh about this airhead stage, and encourage your partner to do the same. Who cares if you left your earphones in your dresser?
Chow down on choline. This mineral is the building block for a memory-forming brain chemical called acetylcholine. Researchers believe that eating plenty of choline-rich foods during pregnancy may help boost the function of your brain and your baby's.
Load up on omega-3s. DHA-rich foods (including pregnancy-safe fish like salmon) are another nutrient that help supports healthy brain function and development for both you and your baby.
Skip the gingko. Forget about taking the herbal supplement gingko biloba. This "memory-booster" has not been proven safe for use during pregnancy.
Prepare yourself. Expect the haze to hang in during the first weeks to months after you give birth. Postpartum fatigue may take the place of hormones as the primary culprit, but that too shall pass.
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